How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie

As a big fan of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, I was interested in this book. 70 years after it was published, I still see people recommending it, so I had high hopes.

Sadly, the book fell short of my expectations. When I read How to Win Friends and Influence People, every chapter felt relevant and useful. In contrast, only about 20% of How to Stop Worrying and Start Living felt useful. Most of the book is personal anecdotes that failed to connect with me and mental exercises that didn’t appeal to me.

I’m glad I read the book, as I feel like the useful lessons were valuable enough to justify the cost of the fluff, but I wish that more of it resonated with me.

What I Liked ๐Ÿ”—︎

  • Several of the lessons helped me reduce stress and look at my life from different perspectives.
  • The stories are often hokey, but they make the lessons feel more relatable.

What I Disliked ๐Ÿ”—︎

  • The excerpts from the “third-party contributors” sound suspiciously like Dale Carnegie.
  • Lots of the stories were fluff that didn’t resonate with me.
  • A lot of the advice feels easier said than done.
    • e.g., just deciding to stop worrying about a problem once you’ve thought about it enough

Key Takeaways ๐Ÿ”—︎

Live in “Day-tight compartments” ๐Ÿ”—︎

  • In a speech at Yale, Sir William Osler advised students to live in “day-tight compartments.”
  • Osler had recently traveled across the Atlantic on a ship that could create watertight seals between parts of the ship during emergencies.
  • Osler said that students have a larger journey than that boat, so they need to shut out the past and future to focus on today.
  • The best way to prepare for the future is by thinking about how to do excellent work today.
    • Osler didn’t say to ignore the future entirely, just to avoid focusing too much on it.

Formula for Solving Worry Situations ๐Ÿ”—︎

  1. Figure out the worst-case scenario for the thing that worries you.
  2. Find a way to accept that outcome if it were to happen.
  3. Devote your time to improving the outcome.

If you can accept the worst-case scenario, then anything above that is an improvement.

The High Cost of Getting Even ๐Ÿ”—︎

  • When you hold onto hatred of your enemies, you harm yourself more than you harm them.
    • It would delight your enemies to know that they occupy your thoughts.

Carnegie asked Dwight Eisenhower’s son if his father ever held resentments:

No, Dad never wastes a minute thinking about people he doesn’t like.

No one can humiliate or disturb you unless you let them.

Ignoring ingratitude ๐Ÿ”—︎

  • People become obsessed with resentment when they feel like someone shows them too little gratitude for a gift or favor.
  • It’s natural for people to forget to show gratitude, so we shouldn’t expect it.
    • Jesus cured 10 lepers, and only one said thank you, so we shouldn’t expect more.
  • We need to find joy in the act of giving rather than relying on the recipient’s gratitude.
  • Gratitude is a learned trait, so if you want your children to be grateful, you must demonstrate gratitude.

Would you take a million dollars for what you have? ๐Ÿ”—︎

Would you sell any of these things for a million dollars?

  • Your eyes
  • Your legs
  • Your hands
  • Your family
  • Your children

If not, you effectively have millions of dollars in assets for which to be thankful.

Clear your desk ๐Ÿ”—︎

  • To improve your focus and reduce stress, clear your desk of all papers except those related to the immediate problem at hand.
  • Psychologist William Sadler had a story about helping an executive to manage stress at work.

“Tell me,” said the patient, “where do you keep your unfinished business?”

“Finished!” said Sadler.

“And where do you keep your unanswered mail?”

“Answered!” Sadler told him. “My rule is never to lay down a letter until I have answered it. I dictate the reply to my secretary at once.”

Avoid deferring decisions ๐Ÿ”—︎

  • Putting off hard decisions increases stress.
  • When facing a hard problem, either make a decision with the information you have or make the decision to gather more information.